Principles of Personal Defense
by Jeff Cooper
Copyright © 1989 by Jeff Cooper
ISBN 0-87364-497-2 I
Printed in the United States of America
Published by Paladin Press, a division of
Paladin Enterprises, Inc., P.O. Box 1307,
Boulder, Colorado 80306, USA.
Direct inquiries and/or orders to the above address.
PALADIN, PALADIN PRESS, and the "horse head" design
are trademarks belonging to Paladin Enterprises and
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All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no
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Neither the author nor the publisher assumes
any responsibility for the use or misuse of
information contained in this book.
Principle One: Alertness 5
Principle Two: Decisiveness 11
Principle Three: Aggressiveness 17
Principle Four: Speed 23
Principle Five: Coolness 27
Principle Six: Ruthlessness 33
Principle Seven: Surprise 39
A Final Word 43
It is not common for one to enjoy rereading something
that he wrote a decade previously. Times change, styles
change, attitudes change, and most of all people grow, both
intellectually and emotionally. It is therefore with gratifica-
tion and some little surprise that I was able to reread Prin-
ciples of Personal Defense at the request of the publishers,
and to discover that I felt no need to change anything of
importance. It stands as it stood, and insofar as it spoke the
truth ten years ago, it speaks it still
The booklet is essentially a digest of a presentation I
developed while working in Central America before the
Communist takeover there. This part of the world has al-
ways been turbulent, and the need for individual self-
defense has remained fairly constant ever since the depar-
ture of the Spanish in the early part of the nineteenth cen-
tury. Individual conduct in lethal confrontation is not,
however, something that is confined to any one locale or
era, and if there are principles guiding its conduct -and I
believe there are— those principles do not change according
to geography, history, or sociological whim. If a principle
exists it must be immutable, for that is what a principle is—
a truth standing apart from the mood of the times.
If I were to rewrite this pamphlet completely, the only
thing I would change would be those few personal anec-
dotes that appear within it. I would update them to include
only those that have taken place within the last year or so.
As it now stands, the anecdotes are all at least ten years old,
but the more I look at them, the more I realize that there is
no need to change them, because the experiences that have
more recently come across my desk, and in which I have
lately been involved, simply corroborate what has already
been set down. These experiences could be rewritten to
include nothing that happened more than one year ago and
we would have the same story. Thus it has not been neces-
sary to do any extensive rewriting.
To emphasize this point, however, I should mention
that only this last week another episode came to my atten-
tion that was immensely satisfying in its exemplification of
several of the principles set forth in this work. It seems a
yachtsman was asleep in his power cruiser docked in the
Bahamas. After midnight he opened one eye to be aware of
two intruders in his cabin, one of whom was pointing a
Mini- 14 at his chest from a range of about eighteen inches.
This is a startling situation. This is an intimidating situa-
tion. It might properly be termed a terrifying situation. But
the man remembered his principles and instantly attacked,
with his hands, and won. He personified the principles of
decisiveness, aggressiveness, speed, and surprise in a most
Stories such as this come to my attention with such fre-
quency that it would take a whole directory to list them.
They establish beyond any question that the principles we
have taught over the decades, and still continue to teach at
Gunsite, are valid beyond any contradiction. Our work here
is conducted in order to keep the victims of aggression
alive, and the knowledge that it succeeds is our reward.
Principles of Personal Defense has been received with
only moderate enthusiasm by the law enforcement estab-
lishment. Several departments have adopted it, but only
with the deletion of the principles of aggressiveness and
ruthlessness. It obviously makes for bad press to have a
department known as both aggressive and ruthless. This is
quite understandable, but it does not invalidate the prin-
ciples. In war there is no substitute for victory, and this is
equally true of personal combat, which is, after all, a
microcosm of war. When a coward is offered deadly vio-
lence, his reaction may be to surrender, or cower, or flee, or
call for help; not one of these choices is likely to obviate his
But this booklet was not written for cowards.
I think it stands as well now as when it was first written,
and I have nothing further to add to it.
Some people prey upon other people. Whether we like
it or not, this is one of the facts of life. It has always been
so and it is not going to change. The number of sociopaths
in a stipulated population varies widely, but we can take a
figure of one in one hundred, for simplicity's sake, and not
be far off. About one person in one hundred will, under
some circumstances, initiate a violent attack upon another,
in defiance of the law, for reasons that seem sufficient to
him at the time. Take the able-bodied male population of
your community, divide it by one hundred, and you have a
fair approximation of the number of possible contacts who
just might take it upon themselves to beat your head in. It is
not pertinent to dispute the mathematics of this calculation.
It may be wrong for your place and time. But anyone who
is aware of his environment knows that the peril of physical
assault does exist, and that it exists everywhere and at all
times. The police, furthermore, can protect you from it only
The author assumes that the right of self-defense exists.
Some people do not. This booklet is not for them. This is
for those who feel that anyone who chooses physically to
attack another human being does so at his peril In some
jurisdictions it is held that the victim of an attacker must,
above all, attempt to escape. This is a nice legalistic con-
cept, but it is very often tactically unsound. By the time one
has exhausted every means of avoiding conflict it may be
too late to save his life. Laws vary, and cannot be mem-
orized encyclopedically; in any case, we are not con-
cerned here about jurisprudence, but about survival. If one
lives through a fight, we will assume that he is better off
than if he does not, even though he may be thereafter
confronted with legal action.
Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards.
A victim who fights back makes the whole business
impractical. It is true that a victim who fights back may
suffer for it, but one who does not almost certainly will
suffer for it. And, suffer or not, the one who fights back
retains his dignity and his self-respect Any study of the
atrocity list of recent years— Starkweather, Speck, Manson,
Richard Hickok and Cary Smith, et al— shows immediately
that the victims, by their appalling ineptitude and timidity,
virtually assisted in their own murders. ("Don't make them
mad, Martha, so they won't hurt us.")
Any man who is a man may not, in honor, submit to
threats or violence. But many men who are not cowards are
simply unprepared for the fact of human savagery. They
have not thought about it (incredible as this may appear to
anyone who reads the paper or listens to the news) and they
just don't know what to do. When they look right into the
face of depravity or violence, they are astonished and
confounded. This can be corrected.
The techniques of personal combat are not covered in
this work. The so-called "martial arts" (boxing, karate, the
stick, the pistol, etc.) are complete studies in themselves
and must be acquired through suitable programs of instruc-
tion, training, and practice. It behooves all able-bodied men
and women to consider them. But the subject of this work
is more basic than technique, being a study of the guiding
principles of survival in the face of unprovoked violence on
the part of extralegal human assailants. Strategy and tactics
are subordinate to the principles of war, just as individual
defensive combat is subordinate to the following principles
of personal defense.
"A commander may be forgiven for being defeated, but
never for being surprised." This maxim is among the first to
be impressed upon new lieutenants. It is equally applicable
to individuals who aspire to a degree of physical security in
today's embattled society. Alertness is, to some extent, an
inherent personality trait, but it can nonetheless be learned
and improved. Once we accept that our familiar and prosaic
environment is in fact perilous, we automatically sharpen
Two rules are immediately evident: Know what is
behind you, and pay particular attention to anything out of
It is axiomatic that the most likely direction of attack is
from behind. Be aware of that. Develop "eyes in the back
of your head." Eric Hartmann, the World War II German
flying ace who is unquestionably the greatest fighter pilot
of all time (1^405 combat missions, 352 confirmed vic-
tories), feels that he survived because of an "extremely
sensitive back to his neck"; and, conversely, claims that 80
percent of his victims never knew he was in the same sky
with them* Combat flying is not the same as personal
defense, but the principle applies. The great majority of the
victims of violent crime are taken by surprise. The one who
anticipates the action wins. The one who does not, loses.
Learn from the experience of others and don't let yourself
Make it a game. Keep a chart. Every time anyone is
able to approach you from behind without your knowledge,
mark down an X. Every time you see anyone you know
before he sees you, mark down an O. Keep the Os ahead of
the Xs. A month with no Xs establishes the formation of
Observe your cat. It is difficult to surprise him. Why?
Naturally his superior hearing is part of the answer, but not
all of it. He moves well, using his senses fully. He is not
preoccupied with irrelevancies. He's not thinking about his
job or his image or his income tax. He is putting first things
first, principally his physical security. Do likewise.
There are those who will object to the mood this
instruction generates. They will complain that they do not
wish to "live like that." They are under no obligation to do
so. They can give up. But it is a feral world, and if one
wishes to be at ease in it he must accommodate to it.
Anything out of place can be a danger signal. Certainly
anyone you don't know approaching your dwelling must be
regarded askance. It's ninety-nine to one that he is perfectly
harmless, but will you be ready if he turns out to be that
other one who is not?
Certain things are obvious: an unfamiliar car parked
across the street for long periods with people in it who do
not get out; a car that maintains a constant distance behind
you while you vary your speed; young men in groups,
without women, staying in one place and not talking. These
things should set off a first-stage alarm in anyone, but there
are many other signals to be read by the wary. Anyone who
appears to be triggered out of watchfulness and into action
by your appearance must be explained. Anyone observing
you carefully must be explained. Anyone whose behavior
seems to be geared to yours must be explained. If the
explanation does not satisfy you, be ready to take appropri-
ate defensive action.
A common ruse of the sociopath is the penetration of a
dwelling under false pretenses. Anyone can claim to be a
repairman or an inspector of one sort or another. It is often
impractical to verify credentials, but merely being aware
that credentials may easily be falsified is protection against
surprise. The strong need only remain watchful. The weak
should take further precautions.
On the street, let no stranger take your hand. To allow a
potential assailant a firm grip on your right hand is to give
him a possibly fatal advantage. Use your eyes. Do not enter
unfamiliar areas that you cannot observe first. Make it a
practice to swing wide around corners, use window glass
for rearward visibility, and get something solid behind you
when you pause.
All this may sound excessively furtive and melo-
dramatic, but those who have cultivated what might be
called a tactical approach to life find it neither troublesome
nor conspicuous. And, like a fastened seat belt, a life jacket,
or a fire extinguisher, it is comforting even when un-
Needless to say, no sensible person ever opens the door
of his house without knowing who is knocking. If your
entranceway does not permit visual evaluation of your
caller, change it. The statistics may be against a threat
waiting outside, but statistics are cold comfort after you
discover that your case is the rare exception.
The foregoing suggestions are merely random examples
of ways in which the principle of alertness is manifested.
Situations are numberless, and specific recommendations
cannot be made to cover them all. The essential thing is to
bear always in mind that trouble can appear at any time. Be
aware. Be ready. Be alert.
It is difficult for a domesticated man to change in an
instant into one who can take quick, decisive action to meet
a violent emergency. Most of us are unused to violent
emergencies —especially those which can only be solved by
the use of force and violence on our part— and these emer-
gencies require a parturient effort of will to transform our-
selves from chickens into hawks. Decisiveness, like alert-
ness, is to some extent a built-in characteristic, but, also
like alertness, it can be accentuated. In formalized combat it
is supplied— or it should be— by appropriate orders from
above. In cases of personal defense, it must be self-
generated, and this is the problem.
When "the ball is opened"— when it becomes evident
that you are faced with violent physical assault— your life
depends upon your selecting a correct course of action and
carrying it through without hesitation or deviation. There
can be no shilly-shallying. There is not time. To ponder is
quite possibly to perish. And it is important to remember
that the specific course you decide upon is, within certain
parameters, less important than the vigor with which you
execute it. The difficulty is that the proper course of action,
when under attack, is usually to counterattack. This runs
contrary to our normally civilized behavior, and such a de-
cision is rather hard for even an ordinarily decisive person
Short of extensive personal experience, which most of
us would rather not amass, the best way to cultivate such
tactical decisiveness is through hypothesis: "What would I
do if . . . ?'* By thinking tactically, we can more easily
arrive at correct tactical solutions, and practice— even
theoretical practice -tends to produce confidence in our
solutions which, in turn, makes it easier for us, and thus
quicker, to reach a decision.
English common law, the fountainhead of our juridical
system, holds that you may use sufficient force and vio-
lence to prevent an assailant from inflicting death or serious
injury upon you— or your wife, or your child, or any other
innocent party. You may not pursue your attacker with
deadly intent, and you may not strike an unnecessary blow,
but if someone is trying to kill you, you are justified in
killing him to stop him, if there is no other way. This is
putting it about as simply as possible, and since the law
here is eminently reasonable, the legal aspects of personal
defense need not detain us in formulating a proper defen-
sive decision. We must be sure that our assailant is trying to
kill or maim us, that he is physically capable of doing so,
and that we cannot stop him without downing him. These
conditions can usually be ascertained in the blink of an eye.
Then we may proceed. (Incidentally, rape is generally con-
sidered "serious injury" in this connection. A man who
clearly intends rape may thus be injured or killed to prevent
the accomplishment of his purpose, if no lesser means will
So, when under attack, it is necessary to evaluate the
situation and to decide instantly upon a proper course of
action, to be carried out immediately with all the force you
can bring to bear. He who hesitates is indeed lost. Do not
soliloquize. Do not delay. Be decisive.
In defense we do not initiate violence. We must grant
our attacker the vast advantage of striking the first blow, or
at least attempting to do so. But thereafter we may return
the attention with what should optimally be overwhelming
violence. "The best defense is a good offense." This is true,
and while we cannot apply it strictly to personal defensive
conduct, we can propose a corollary: "The best personal
defense is an explosive counterattack." Those who do not
understand fighting will at once suggest that numbers, size,
strength, or armament must make this instruction invalid.
They will insist that the aggressor will not attack unless he
has a decisive preponderance of force. This is possible, but
it is not by any means always, or even usually, true. Con-
sider the Speck case, in which the victims outnumbered the
murderer eight to one. They disposed of far more than
enough force to save their lives, but only if they had
directed that force violently and aggressively against the
murderer. This they failed to do. There are countless other
The victory of an explosive response by an obviously
weaker party against superior force is easy to observe in the
animal world. A toy poodle runs a German Shepherd off his
property. A tiny kingbird drives off a marauding hawk. A
forty-pound wolverine drives a whole wolf pack away from
a kill that the wolves worked hours to bring down. Aggres-
siveness carries with it an incalculable moral edge in any
combat, offensive or defensive. And the very fact that the
assailant does not expect aggressiveness in his victim
usually catches him unaware.
If the intended victim is armed, skill becomes a factor
more critical than numbers. A man with a powerful, reliable
sidearm, and who is highly qualified in its use, can ruin a
rifle squad at close range if he can seize the initiative by
instantaneous aggressive response to a clumsily mounted
attack. Of course such skill is rare, even (or perhaps espe-
cially) among our uniformed protectors, but it can be
acquired. Great strides have been made in recent years in
the theory of defensive pistolcraft The results are available
to respectable parties. But never assume that simply having
a gun makes you a marksman. You are no more armed
because you are wearing a pistol than you are a musician
because you own a guitar.
In a recent case, a pupil of mine was assaulted by four
men armed with revolvers as he drove into his driveway
after a late party. Being a little the worse for wear, he
violated (or just forgot) all the principles of personal
defense but one and that was the principle of aggressive-
ness. At their first volley, he laid down such a quick and
heavy barrage of return fire (twenty-two rounds in less than
twenty seconds) that his would-be assassins panicked and
ran. He did most things wrong, but his explosive reaction to
attack certainly saved his life*
Now how do we cultivate an aggressive response? I
think the answer is indignation. Read the papers. Watch the
news. These people have no right to prey upon innocent
citizens. They have no right to offer you violence. They are
bad people and you are quite justified in resenting their
behavior to the point of rage. Your response, if attacked,
must not be fear, it must be anger. The two emotions are
very close and you can quite easily turn one into the other.
At this point your life hangs upon your ability to block out
all thoughts of your own peril, and to concentrate utterly
upon the destruction of your enemy. Anger lets you do this.
The little old lady who drives off an armed robber by
beating on him with her purse is angry, and good for her!
The foregoing is quite obviously not an approved out-
look in current sociological circles. That is of no conse-
quence. We are concerned here simply with survival. After
we have arranged for our survival, we can discuss sociol-
If it is ever your misfortune to be attacked, alertness
will have given you a little warning, decisiveness will have
given you a proper course to pursue, and if that course is to
counterattack, carry it out with everything you've got! Be
indignant. Be angry. Be aggressive.
Speed is the absolute essence of any form of combat,
from a fencing match to the Six-Day War. (Absence of
speed is what history will probably decide caused us to lose
in Vietnam.) Napoleon said, "I may lose a battle but I will
never lose a minute." Personal defense speeds this up. We
must say, "I may lose this fight, but I will not lose this
second!" Apparently overwhelming strength is of no im-
portance if it is not brought to bear before it is pre-empted.
In our Old West it was said, "Do unto others as they would
do unto you, but do it first." Amen.
Here again this essay deals purely with defense, and
neither law nor morality justifies our flattening someone
just because we think he might attack us. However, on the
very instant that we know that our assailant intends us
serious physical harm, we must work just as fast as we can.
If he has shot at us, we must hit him before he can shoot
again. If he is holding us by threat of force, we have the
edge of reaction time over him.
The stake in personal defense is your life. You cannot
afford to play by sporting rules. Be fast, not fair. Be "off-
side" on the play. No referee will call it back.
The perfect fight is one that is over before the loser
really understands what is going on. The perfect defense is
a counterattack that succeeds before the assailant discovers
that he has bitten off more than he can chew.
Therefore, if you are attacked, retaliate instantly. Be
sudden. Be quick. Speed is your salvation.
(and, if firearms are used, Precision)
You must keep your head. If you "lose your cool" under
deadly attack, you will probably not survive to make ex-
cuses. So don't bother to improvise any . . . just keep your
head. Anger, as long as it is controlled anger, is no obstacle
to efficiency. Self-control is one thing the sociopath does
not usually possess. Use yours to his undoing.
If you counterattack with your hands, use them care-
fully. (Remember that a blow with your closed fist to your
enemy's head will almost always wreck your hand. A
finger in his eye is easier, safer, and likely to be more
If you improvise a weapon from objects at hand, use it
in a way most likely to do damage without loss or
breakage. The points of most improvised weapons, from
umbrellas to fire pokers, are usually more effective than the
edges, as they can be applied with less warning and without
exposure during a "windup." A blunt point should be
directed at the face or throat Drive it carefully, coolly, and
The optimum defensive arm is the heavy-duty pistol,
though a shotgun may surpass it for home defense if there
is sufficient warning. If you are fortunate enough to have
access to any sort of firearm when under attack, remember
that it is only as good as your ability to keep cool and shoot
carefully. My pupil, mentioned in Chapter Four, did not
shoot carefully, and he survived largely through luck alone,
for his attackers shot just as sloppily as he did. But we
cannot count on miserable marksmanship in our enemies.
The sociopath is indeed usually a bad shot, but not always,
Clyde Barrow was quite good.
Another student of mine did far better. To begin with,
he heard the approach of the assassins' car in the cold grey
light of dawn. He was alert even at that hour. He was on his
feet immediately, pistol in hand. Through the blinds he saw
two men coming rapidly up the walk to his door, one with a
shotgun and one with a machine pistol. He decided that
such a visit, with such equipment, at such an hour, needed
no further explanation. He flung open the front door and
went to work, and he remembered to remain cool and to
shoot with precision. The two would-be murderers died in
their tracks. The householder caught six pellets of bird shot
in the leg. The attackers outnumbered and outgunned their
proposed victim, but they were defeated and destroyed by a
man who did everything right.
When an expensively trained police officer from one of
the larger police departments misses a felon six times at a
range of ten feet (and don't think this doesn't happen), his
failure is not due to his technical inability to hit a target of
that size at that distance, for he has demonstrated on the
firing range that he can do so. His failure, and often his
consequent death, is due to his lack of concentration upon
his marksmanship— the loss of his cool.
The ability to remain cool under pressure comes more
easily to some people than to others. But it is in no sense
out of anyone's reach. In fact it is the first qualification of a
man that Kipling calls for in his immortal poem If. It is
illustrated beautifully every time you see a quarterback
calmly select and hit his receiver while under the threat of
more than one thousand pounds of rock-hard, cat-quick
muscle only a step away. It's a matter of will. If you know
that you can keep your head, and that you must keep your
head, you probably will keep your head.
To train yourself to do this takes some thought. Certain
kinds of athletics are excellent-football, of course, in
particular. Sailing, flying, motor racing, and mountaineer-
ing are also good. But in my opinion the best of them all is
the hunting of medium and big game. "Buck fever" is a
classic affliction, and a man who has conquered it can be
guaranteed to shoot carefully under pressure. While it is
true that a deer is not shooting back, this is less significant
than might at first appear. The deer is about to vanish, and,
odd as it seems, fear of sporting failure is usually greater
than the fear of death. This startling point is easy to prove.
The average competitive pistol shot works and trains far
harder to earn a little brass cup than the average policeman
works and trains to acquire a skill that can save his life.
Not all hunters make the grade -the woods are full of
ditherers in red jackets. But the really expert hunter/
rifleman is a very good man to have on your side.
Under any sort of attack, keep cooL And if you must
shoot, shoot with precision.
Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another
without sufficient cause deserves no consideration. While
both moral and legal precepts enjoin us against so-called
"overreaction," we are fully justified in valuing the life and
person of an intended victim more highly than the life of a
pernicious assailant The attacker must be stopped. At once
and completely. Just who he is, why he has chosen to be a
criminal, his social background, his ideological or psycho-
logical motivation, and the extent of injury he incurs as a
result of his acts— these may all be considered at some
future date. Now, your first concern is to stay alive. Let
your attacker worry about his life. Don't hold back. Strike
no more after he is incapable of further action, but see that
he is stopped. The law forbids you to take revenge, but it
permits you to prevent. What you do to prevent further
felonious assault, as long as the felon is still capable of
action, is justified. So make sure, and do not be restrained
by considerations of forbearance. They can get you killed.
An armed man, especially if he is armed with a firearm, is
dangerous as long as he is conscious. Take no chances. Put
If you must use your hands, use them with all the
strength you possess. Tapping your assailant half-heartedly,
for fear of hurting him, will indeed make him mad, and
since he has already shown that he is willing to kill you, he
may try even harder now that you have struck him a painful
though indecisive blow. If you choose to strike, by all
means strike hard.
This also applies to shooting. If you are justified in
shooting you are justified in killing, in all but a few quite
obvious circumstances. Don't try to be fancy. Shoot for the
center of mass. The world is full of decent people.
Criminals we can do without.
We often hear it said— especially by certain police
spokesmen who, it seems to me, should know better— that
in the event of victimization the victim should offer no
resistance, for fear of arousing his assailant. Perhaps we
should ignore the craven exhortation to cowardice made
here. "Honor" may in truth be an obsolete word. So let us
consider only results. The Sharon Tate party did not resist
The Starkweather victims did not resist. The La Biancas did
not resist. Mitrione did not resist. The next time some
"expert" tells me not to resist I may become abusive.
Apart from the odds that you will be killed anyway if
you submit to threats of violence, it would seem— especially
in today's world of permissive atrocity— that it may be your
social duty to resist. The law seems completely disinclined
to discourage violent crime. The sociopath who attacks you
has little to fear, at this writing, from either the police or the
courts. The chief of police of our capital city has stated in
print that, "The greatest real and immediate hazard that the
hold-up man faces is the possibility that his victim may be
armed and might shoot the criminal." (US. News and
World Report, 8 December 1969, page 35.) The syntax may
be a bit garbled, but the meaning is clear. If violent crime is
to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it.
The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither
judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is
his victim. If a felon attacks you and lives, he will reason-
ably conclude that he can do it again. By submitting to him,
you not only imperil your own life, but you jeopardize the
lives of others. The first man who resisted Starkweather,
after eleven murders, overcame him easily and without
injury. If that man had been the first to be accosted, eleven
innocent people would have been spared.
The coddling of murderers has brought us to an evil
pass. If it is truly a wise and just policy (which we may
have serious reason to doubt), leave it to the courts. When
your life is in danger, forget it. If you find yourself under
lethal attack don't be kind. Be harsh. Be tough. Be ruthless.
This is put last on purpose, for surprise is the first
principle of offensive combat. However, the privilege of
striking the first blow is a luxury we must usually grant to
our attacker, so in a sense there can be no strategic surprise
in defense. But that does not mean that the defender cannot
achieve tactical surprise. By doing what our assailant least
expects us to do, we may throw him completely off. As we
have seen, what he usually least suspects is instant, violent
counterattack, so the principle of aggressiveness is closely
tied to threat of surprise.
One of the most hilarious episodes in recent cinema
presents a bank teller debating the spelling of a written
demand passed through the wicket by the bank robber. The
whole affair shifts from banditry to an argument about
whether the money can be handed over in the face of so
badly constructed a missive. Pretty far-fetched, of course,
but still stimulating. The unexpected is disconcerting. A
disconcerted felon is momentarily less in charge of his own
thoughts than the moment just before or just after. At that
moment, his victim may be able to turn the tables.
On a realistic note, I can point out that in every single
successful defense against violent attack that I know of —
and I have studied this matter for nearly three decades— the
attacker was totally surprised when his victim did not wilt
The speed, power, efficiency, and aggressiveness of the
counterattack varied greatly, but the mere fact of its exis-
tence was the most elemental component of its success.
If you have friends in law enforcement, ask them to tell
you the "April Fool" joke. It's a bit gamy for a publication
of this sort, but it makes a point—and it is very funny. Its
moral is the moral of this manual: The criminal does not
expect his prey to fight back. May he never choose you,
but, if he does, surprise him.
A Final Word
There is a purpose to be served by this essay. The
combination of modern medical science and the welfare
state has brought about a condition of general overcrowd-
ing and boredom which, magnified by vast worldwide
increases in population, has resulted in an unconscionable
drop in personal safety. Before World War n, one could
stroll in the parks and streets of the city after dark with
hardly any risk-at least no more than was involved in
driving on the highway. A young woman needed no escort
One could safely ask for help on the road. Meeting with
another rifleman in the woods was occasion for com-
radeship rather than a red alert. This is true no longer.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, the problem of
personal risk is much more serious than of yore. Our police
do what they can, but they can't protect us everywhere and
all the time. All too often they cannot even protect them-
selves. Your physical safety is up to you, as it really always
The principles herein enunciated are the result of a great
deal of study and consultation, plus a fair amount of actual
experience. Taken to heart, they may save your life. There
is always an element of luck in any sort of conflict, and I
know of no way to guarantee success in every instance.
What I do know, however, is that if the victims of the dozen
or more sickening atrocities that have gained nationwide
fame in recent years had read this book, and had heeded
what they read, they would have survived those actions.
Additionally, a small but select number of goblins would
not be alive today, bounding in and out of courts and
costing us all money that could be much better spent.
George Patton told his officers, "Don't worry about
your flanks. Let the enemy worry about his flanks." It is
high time for society to stop worrying about the criminal,
and to let the criminal start worrying about society. And by
"society 55 1 mean you.